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Apr 25, 2014

Liverpool looks to tighten grip on title race

Liverpool and Chelsea face off Sunday at Anfield in a match that will have major implications on the Premier League title race. Liverpool currently sits atop the table with 80 points, with Chelsea in second on 75 points. Manchester City, which also plays Sunday, is currently in third with 74 points and a game in hand.

According to ESPN's Soccer Power Index (SPI), Liverpool is the favorite Sunday as the home side, projected to win 43 percent of the time. Chelsea is predicted to win 29 percent of the time, with the match ending in a draw in the other 28 percent. That's assuming Chelsea plays something resembling its top lineup, which may not be the case with the Blues looking ahead to Wednesday's Champions League match.

Liverpool is currently SPI's heavy favorite to win the league with 85 percent odds compared to just 2 percent for Chelsea (Man City has the other 13 percent). A win by Liverpool would mathematically eliminate Chelsea from the title race and increase the Reds' odds to 96 percent. A win by Chelsea would keep the Blues alive in the title race, jumping its odds to 16 percent and dropping Liverpool's to 60 percent. A draw Sunday would leave things virtually unchanged for the two sides, while giving Manchester City a boost.

This match features the highest-scoring team in the five major European leagues in Liverpool (96 goals), against the team that has conceded the fewest goals in the Premier League in Chelsea (26 goals). Chelsea's task of stopping Liverpool will prove more difficult without goalkeeper Petr Cech, who was injured in Chelsea’s Champions League semifinal match Tuesday. In addition to allowing the fewest goals, Cech has a 78.6 save percentage this season, second highest in the league (minimum five matches).

The best way to score on Chelsea may be from corners. Chelsea has allowed 23 percent of its goals from corner kicks in league play this season (six of 26), the highest percentage in the Premier League and second highest in the five major European leagues. Liverpool has scored 11 goals from corners in league play this season; only Manchester City (12) has scored more such goals in the top five leagues.

Liverpool leads the Premier League in scoring on the counterattack, scoring nine fast-break goals this season.  No other team has scored more than four such goals, one of which is Chelsea. This might prove difficult Sunday, as Chelsea is one of two Premier League teams not to concede a fast-break goal this season.

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